Review: Nuri and the Whale

Nuri and the Whale

by Ronit Chacham, illustrated by Moran Yogev, translated by Mekella Broomberg

Green Bean Books, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick

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This captivating picture book brings a Biblical passage to life through an uplifting and heartfelt story. Every day, a young man named Nuri throws breadcrumbs into the sea because he remembers his father having told him to “cast your bread onto the water.” When Nuri accidentally falls into the ocean one day, his generosity is repaid by a fish that, having grown huge on Nuri’s bread, scoops him up, treats him to a glorious tour of the ocean, and delivers him to the lavish castle of the King of the Sea, otherwise known as Wisewhale.

Wisewhale gives Nuri two gifts of comprehension: the ability to understand all animals’ languages, and a fuller appreciation of the Ecclesiastical saying, “Cast your bread upon the water, and one day it will come back to you.” When he returns to land, Nuri devotes himself to the idea of giving to others. As a result, he is rewarded with a joyous, love-filled life. 
Nuri and the Whale is Jewish-positive through and through: the inspiration (Biblical adage), theme (tzedakah, kindness, respect), plot (a young Jewish person growing to comprehend and embody generosity), and illustrations (including the Hebrew lettering for the Biblical verse). This book is a strong contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

This story will transport children to a sparkling and magical world, while also demonstrating the importance of generosity and kindness. Along the way, children will learn the difference between obedience (“Dad told me to throw bread”) and true understanding (“helping others is a mitzvah, whether you have a little or a lot”). The lush, majestic illustrations amplify and complement the evocative prose – you could literally dive into the pictures. Nuri and the Whale is highly recommended for homes, libraries and classrooms.

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Reviewer Shirley Reva Vernick is a middle-grade and young-adult novelist. Shirley’s debut novel, THE BLOOD LIE, is a Sydney Taylor honor book and the winner of the Simon Wiesenthal Once Upon A World Book Award. Her latest Jewish-themed MG novel, RIPPED AWAY, won the Best Indie Book Award and the Purple Dragonfly Award.